Virtually every adult has an estate. Unfortunately, many people believe only the super-rich have “estates,” and those with few assets do not need an estate plan. Nothing could be further from the truth! San Mateo, CA residents should take the time to consider what would happen if they passed without an estate plan. But estate planning is not just about who will get what when you die. An estate plan also addresses who will make crucial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. San Mateo estate planning attorney Mark Gullotta has the experience and knowledge necessary to ensure your loved ones are taken care of through your estate plan when the unexpected occurs.
Estate Planning in San Mateo, CA
You may wonder what is involved in having an estate plan prepared—or what the consequences of not having an estate plan are. If you have no estate plan or living trust, those you love will likely end up in probate court, fighting for their rights. If you have minor children, their guardianship could be in question. If you are incapacitated, your loved ones could be forced to watch others make decisions on your behalf.
Not only can it cost a considerable amount of money, it can sometimes take years to fully resolve issues associated with no estate plan. Further, family relationships can be destroyed through the chaos left behind. Once you become incapacitated, it is simply too late to make an estate plan. The same is true after your death. Speaking to a San Mateo estate planning attorney can make all the difference for your loved ones.
How a San Mateo Estate Planning Attorney Can Help with Wills and Trusts
A San Mateo Will is a testamentary document. This means it must meet certain formalities to be valid. In the state of California, a Will must be in writing, signed by the Testator (the person making the Will), and must have two witnesses. A holographic will (handwritten) can be legal so long as it is signed and written in the Testator’s own handwriting. A Trust can also be oral or written, although creating an oral Trust would not be a good idea. A Revocable Trust is created during your lifetime with assets being funded into the Trust.
You can be the Trustee, and then have a successor Trustee who takes over after your death or incapacitation, or you can have a third-party act as Trustee. Wills take effect only after death. A Will is not recognized under California law until it is admitted to probate. While Trusts tend to allow more flexibility as far as assets, a Will is necessary if you have minor children to nominate a Guardian. There are pros and cons to both Wills and Trusts. San Mateo Estate Planning Attorney Mark Gullotta can help you determine which document is right for you.
Following your death, your estate will generally go through California probate, and, as such, must be “administered.” Administering an estate involves ensuring all the assets end up where the decedent wished them to go. It can also include approving the guardian named by the decedent for his or her minor children. At the beginning of the probate process, the personal representative named by the decedent is likely to be approved by the court.
If no personal representative was named, the court will appoint an administrator—usually a close family member or a beneficiary under the Will. If the estate involves a Trust, the named Trustee is the equivalent of a personal representative. The tasks involved in probate administration will vary from one estate to another. A San Mateo estate planning attorney from the Law Office of Mark Gullotta can help you ensure the easiest probate administration possible. Mark Gullotta has extensive experience as a probate lawyer and can use that experience for your benefit.
Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples
In the state of California, unmarried couples may face additional challenges when planning their estate. The unlimited marital deduction only applies to those legally married persons under state law. This makes it harder to eliminate estate tax upon the death of a non-married partner.
Unmarried couples might consider purchasing life insurance on one another to help pay the estate tax. It is important that unmarried couples carefully consider the powers and authority they want one another to have after the death of one, or during incapacitation.
Once these decisions are made, they need to be memorialized by a San Mateo estate planning attorney, so they are legally enforceable. Unmarried couples should also consider writing letters to family members who might presume they would be in charge of your affairs. Mark Gullotta is a highly experienced San Mateo estate planning attorney who can help you with these issues.
San Mateo Advance Directives, Powers of Attorney, and Guardianship Issues
In addition to Wills and Trusts, there are other estate planning documents you could find helpful for your particular situation. An Advance Directive allows you to say who you want to speak for you if you were to become incapacitated. It also allows you to state what kind of health care you want—and what you do not want. Having an Advance Directive in place can give you peace of mind for the future. A Power of Attorney may also be included in your estate plan.
There are many different types of Powers of Attorney, but essentially, they permit another person to make stated choices in your name. POAs come in different forms, like a durable power of attorney that, like an Advance Healthcare Directive, allows another person to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated. You may also need to consider a Guardianship—naming a person to take care of your minor children in the event of your death. San Mateo estate planning attorney Mark Gullotta can help you determine which documents you need in your estate plan.
Estate Planning with San Mateo Estate Planning Attorney Mark Gullotta
Mark Gullotta will ensure you fully understand everything you need to know regarding your estate plan. Mark handles estate plans efficiently and thoroughly, always ensuring your estate plan is carefully matched to your life situations. Contact the Law Office of Mark Gullotta today!